The muskox | A newcomer in the Norwegian landscape

The Norwegians rarely allow alien species into their fauna, with one notable exception, the muskox - first welcomed back to Norway from Greenland in 1924.
A muskox in the Dovre mountains. | Per Harald Olsen - NTNU - Faculty of Natural Sciences - flickr.com - CC BY.

Muskox fossils

In 1913, Norwegian railway workers found muskox ice-age fossils in the mountainous region of Dovre.

The fossils predated the time when the humans first appeared in this part of the world, some 12,000 years ago. The scientists do not think that the species have been in Scandinavia since.

The muskox began its existence in the temperate highlands of Central Asia. Later, it made the Arctic and permafrost tundra its prime habitat.

Through the millennia, the muskox expanded its territories along the edge of the ice-age glaciers, across Europe, Asia, North America, and the island of Greenland.

Almost extinct

By the 1920s, the muskox had disappeared from most of these historical habitats and were nigh on extinct, except for some remaining herds in Arctic Canada and on the Greenland tundra.

The Norwegians decided to help, and between 1924 and 1927, they moved 12 individuals from Greenland to the Norwegian island of Gurskøy. Sadly, they all died.

In 1932, the Norwegians made a second attempt and released 12 Greenland individuals at Dovre. They were all illegally hunted and killed during World War II.

Between 1947 and 1953, there was a third and successful attempt, with 21 Greenland muskox individuals, again at Dovre.

Thriving

Despite some setbacks over the years, the animals have since survived, thrived, and multiplied. In 2019, the Dovre stock had 237 bulls, cows, and calves.

A few strays moved east to the regions of Femundsmarka and Härjedalen, on the border with Sweden, and settled there.

When visiting Norway, you can see the magnificent muskox in its natural habitat; but we strongly recommend that you do it via a guided tour.

A stressed muskox may attack and can be highly dangerous. Heed all local advice – and be safe rather than sorry.

Next: Muskox | Norwegian man killed in 1964 muskox attack

Lundh, N. G. (Ed.). (1992). Moskus. Dovre, Norway: Sør-Trøndelag fylke, Länsstyrelsen i Jämtlands län. | MNR.00048

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